President Donald Trump said he will visit Israel as part of his first foreign trip as commander-in-chief.
“I am proud to make a major and historic announcement this morning, and to share with you that my first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome,” Trump said Thursday during a White House ceremony.
The Israel portion of Trump’s trip is expected to take place May 22-23. Members of Trump’s preparatory team, who have visited Israel to plan the president’s itinerary, indicated he will deliver his main speech at the historic landmark of Masada, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry held a meeting Thursday morning to plan for Trump’s visit. A senior Foreign Ministry official said Trump will also visit the Palestinian Authority (PA) during his trip and will travel to Bethlehem, where he will likely meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the Church of the Nativity.
The announcement of Trump’s first foreign trip comes after his meeting with Abbas at the White House Wednesday, when the U.S. president stated he wishes to serve as a “mediator, arbiter or facilitator” in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The stated purpose of Trump’s trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Vatican is to unite the region against intolerance, curtail radicalization, coordinate efforts to defeat the Islamic State terror group and isolate Iran. The president’s stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia come as those two nations, in the absence of official diplomatic ties, have increasingly aligning interests due to shared concern over Iran’s nuclear threat and sponsorship of terrorism.